Friday, 19 June 2009

Cherry 2000 (1987)

Cherry 2000 isn’t a movie I’d have bothered watching had it not been recommended to me recently. It was made in the 80s (1987 to be precise), and it stars Melanie Griffith, so that’s two black marks against it for starters. And it’s very soon obvious that there’s a major Mad Max influence at work, which is a third black mark. Not that I especially dislike the Mad Max movies, it’s more that the movies they influenced were usually fairly dire. But Cherry 2000 turns out to be a surprisingly enjoyable little romp.

In a very 1980s vision of a futuristic society (the events of the movie are supposed to take place in 2017) a city dweller named Sam has found happiness with a woman named Cherry. Cherry is everything he wants in a woman - she’s sweet, she’s romantic, she’s sexy, and she’s a robot. His blissful existence is shattered when Cherry suffers a complete mechanical failure after a passionate but unwise love-making session on a wet floor. The good news is that he still has her memory chip, so all he needs to do is to find a replacement body for her. The bad news is that the Cherry 2000 series of sex robots are no longer in production.

Hope is rekindled when he hears a rumour that out in the badlands outside the city limits, in the wild and violent Zone 7 where the rule of law no longer applies, there is a warehouse full of brand new Cherry 2000s. Venturing into Zone 7 will require the services of a Tracker. A Tracker named E. Johnson is recommended to him as his best chance of getting into Zone 7 and getting out alive again. E. Johnson turns out to be a young attractive and heavily armed red-headed woman with a very heavily modified bright red Ford Mustang. They must run the gauntlet of assorted crazies and hoodlums, and then things get really tough when they encounter the gang of polite but exceptionally psychotic thugs controlled by someone called Lester. Much mayhem ensues.

The movie works because the obvious temptations, to make Sam a creep or a sleaze-bag or to wallow in large amounts of leering frat-boy humour, are resisted. The movie really does convince you that Sam likes his robot girlfriend not because she allows him to indulge his sexual fantasies but because she allows him to indulge his romantic fantasies. Which might be even sadder, but at least it isn’t sleazy. Sam is simply too much of a romantic to survive the collision with the real world, or with a real woman.

While the story owes something to Blade Runner and the visuals owe a great deal to the Mad Max films the tone of the movie is closer to that of a rather gentle romantic comedy. While there are countless explosions and a great deal of violence it’s very non-graphic and very cartoonish, there’s no gore and there’s no nudity. David Andrews as Sam is rather bland, but that works in the movie’s favour. He is after all a young man who is more comfortable relating to robots than to real people. Even Melanie Griffith’s non-acting acting technique works, since it makes her (despite the firepower she packs) very non-threatening. Like Sam she’s somewhat out of place in the real world, and the growing attraction between them seems plausible.

There are some very spectacular action scenes, especially the one with the car and the crane. Everything is filmed in rather lurid 80s pastels (only in the 80s could pastels be lurid). The dialogue is smarter than you might expect in a movie of this type.

Overall it’s a strange mix of campy action movie and off-beat love story with a romantic triangle between a girl, a guy and a sex robot. It really has no right to work as well as it does, but it’s highly entertaining and even oddly moving and it’s a good deal of silly fun as well.

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